When Is The Centenary of Women Getting The Vote in Ireland?
This is a centenary we can celebrate all year long, should you desire! Depending on which category of parliamentary participation you are in the mood for, you can choose anywhere from sometime last year to sometime in the next four years.
It was in June 1917 that the Representation of the People Act won a majority in the House of Commons. It was in February 1918 that King George V approved it. It was in November of the same year that women were granted the right to stand for election as Members of Parliament. It was in 1922 that the Free State lowered the age from 30 to 21, and removed property qualifications.
But it was in December 1918 that it was first exercised, in the 1918 General Election.
Now women over the age of 30, who occupied property on which rates of at least 5 pounds were payable, or who were married to a man who did, could vote. At the same time, the voting age for men was lowered to 21, and expanded to include all men, whether property owners or not. 8.4 million women in the UK, of which Ireland was a part, were newly eligible to vote.
Saturday the 14th of December 1918 was polling day.
On Saturday, people voted. On Sunday, people rested. On Monday, the newspapers reported. Let's take a look at two accounts which were written in Dublin of the day.
The Freeman's Journal led with a headline of 'Ladies Election':
"...it has been one of the most novel of modern elections, and will be famous forever as the first election at which women recorded their votes for Parliamentary candidates... If I, as one of the unfortunates whom hundreds of voters confronted in as many polling stations on Saturday, were asked what was the most outstanding feature of the day, I should respond, without a moment's hesitation: "The ladies!" And I have no doubt that everyone who lent a hand to the Returning Officers would agree with me. As soon as the average matron had sent "her man" out of the way to work, she determined to get to the bottom of this voting business. On they came in their thousands, rich and poor, clean and dirty, matron and maid, wife and mother - an unceasing flow of curiosity-seeking women...
"And the family parties! Babies of all ages came in with the mammies. One mother of a tribe of six girls fetched them all in to witness the casting of her vote. She received the instructions as to voting as she would have listened to the reading of a relative's will in her favour, showed her candidate's card to the children, allowed them to scrutinise the ballot paper, and even lifted one of them up to see it being dropped in the box. She must have been a Suffragette! Mercifully the prams were left outside..."
The election also occupied the front page of the Irish Citizen newspaper, the suffrage campaign paper run by the Irish Women's Franchise League. It read as follows:
“The election passed quietly in Ireland, and the women destroyed once again many pleasant male illusions about them, the disappointing creatures. Babies were washed and husbands were fed on Election Day just as they are on Washing Day or at spring cleaning. The Police Court returns showed no increase in domestic strife, such as was predicted by the duties if a wife voted against her husband’s favourite. Women’s presence, as usual, raised the tone and purified the atmosphere. There was practically no drunkenness or disorder. Babies were wheeled along to booths and police looked after them while mothers voted - sometimes fathers even condescended to the task.”
#SuffragetteCity, a digital audioguide or walking tour (whatever phrase you fancy!) of the Irish suffrage campaign in Dublin from 1860 to 1922, will launch time time for this centenary. Encompassing seven stops, at seven key landmarks in the city's architecture, this tour has been meticulously researched while being presented in a lively and entertaining way. Sign up below for updates!